Areas That Need Insulation

Home insulation is an important part of your house and a properly as well as adequately insulated house is essential not only to save energy cost and meeting energy standards but also the occupants in the house can live comfortably. With that being said even though home insulation is important, not every part of the house requires insulation. To find out which area or part of your home requires insulation, read on. The following paragraphs describe a couple of do-it-yourself (diy) steps in which you can take to easily determine the area or parts of your house that requires adequate insulation.

Basically, the following areas of your house are the area or parts of your house that requires home insulation. You can refer to the diagram below to determine where to insulate. 


1 Ceilings below an unheated area.
2 “Knee” walls of a finished attic level room.
3 Floor of a crawl attic.
4 The sloping portion of the roof in a finished attic. Leave a airspace between insulation and roof.
5 Exterior walls.
6 Floor above cold crawl spaces. Floors above a porch or an unheated garage.
7 Walls of a heated basement.

In addition to the need for insulation of the building shell (exterior walls, ceilings, and floors), all hot-water pipes and heating as well as cooling ducts that pass through unheated portions of the house (such as crawl space, garage, or unfinished attic) must be insulated. Most houses usually have no more than 1 or 2 inches of insulation wrapped around ducts in unheated areas. Because of increasing fuel costs, this is considered minimal for most areas, and additional insulation can usually be justified. Check the condition of the insulation. Are there any loose, torn, or missing sections? Also, if there are any exposed duct joints, check them to see if they are sealed tightly. When the ducts are used exclusively for air conditioning or serve a dual function (such as heating and air conditioning), the outside of the insulation should be covered with a vapor barrier to prevent condensation. A vapor barrier, however, is not needed on ducts used only for heating. If there is a vapor barrier on the ducts, check its condition. Look for torn and missing section. All vapor-barrier joints must be tightly sealed.

If the domestic hot water is produced in a tank-type water heater located in an unheated area, the tank should be covered with an insulation jacket. These jackets can be purchased in most building-supply or hardware stores. Although tank-type water heaters are normally insulated by the manufacturer, by installing an outer insulation jacket, you will further reduce heat loss and thereby minimize the energy needed to maintain the desired water temperature. The temperature of the hot water should not exceed 140ºF. Temperatures in excess of 140ºF are not only wasteful of energy but will also shorten the life of the water heater.

Simply put, all the exterior walls, floors and ceiling that have contacts with unheated areas such as attic, garage, crawl space and basement requires insulation. Other than the structure of your house that requires insulation, the water pipes, air conditioning ducts as well as water heater requires proper insulation as well to reduce heat loss.


Draft-Proofing Your Electrical Outlets


The first rule in lowering your heating bill is to prevent cold air from getting into your house. We do this, of course, with insulated walls, ceilings, and floors. What happens, however, when you make a hole in that wall or ceiling or floor for some particular reason?

That's when you install something to fill up that hole like a window or door or vent. All of these are specially designed to prevent air infiltration, of course. Even then, you need to add weatherstripping and caulking to ensure that no cracks remain.

There's another category of holes we make in walls, where these holes don't go all the way through — these holes are for electrical outlets and light switches. The typical exterior wall in a house is made with 2"x4" or 2"x6" studs with sheathing and siding on the outside and sheetrock on the inside. Between the studs should be as much batt insulation as will fit snugly. Electrical outlets are then installed in a plastic box about 3" deep that is either shoved or cut into the insulation. Anyone who has worked with an electrician can tell you that electricians are not worried about insulation. For electrical outlets on exterior walls, there is typically little or even no insulation between the outdoors and the inside of the house.

Renovation Tax Credit Stimulus

Effective Jan. 27, any Canadian who spends money on home renovations will be eligible to receive up to $1,350 in tax relief, thanks to the new Home Renovation Tax Credit proposed in the Government's Economic Action Plan.

"Each time a Canadian invests in home renovations, they are helping to create jobs in construction and building supplies in their own community," said the Honourable Lisa Raitt, Minister of Natural Resources Canada. "By providing an incentive for Canadians to invest in their homes, we are also encouraging them to invest in local jobs."

To highlight the kind of projects that will be eligible under this plan, the Minister visited a Victoria-area home renovation site and met with a local contractor who will be better able to protect and create jobs thanks to the additional home renovation projects that will be encouraged through this tax credit.

The Home Renovation Tax Credit will provide a one-year, temporary 15% income tax credit on eligible home renovation expenditures for work performed, or goods acquired, between January 27, 2009 and February 1, 2010. The credit may be claimed on eligible expenditures exceeding $1,000 but not more than $10,000.

The Home Renovation Tax Credit is one of several initiatives designed to help homeowners and homebuyers contained within the Government's Economic Action Plan. Budget 2009 also announced $300 million over two years for homeowners looking to make their homes more energy efficient.

This government is taking steps to help Canadians control their energy costs and keep more money in their pockets. Minister Raitt also announced today the Government of Canada has reintroduced legislation to modernize the Energy Efficiency Act, and has made a series of improvements to Canada's Energy Efficiency Regulations. By 2010, the regulatory changes alone will allow Canadians to save $530 million in energy costs.

Before homeowners, homebuyers, and local construction and building supply workers can benefit from these new initiatives, Parliament must pass the 2009-2010 Federal Budget.

The Story On Vermiculite

Some vermiculite insulation may contain amphibole asbestos fibres. These products can cause health risks if disturbed during maintenance, renovation or demolition. However, there is currently no evidence of risk to your health if the insulation is sealed behind wallboards and floorboards, isolated in an attic, or otherwise kept from exposure to the interior environment.


Insulation Example 1

Vermiculite is a mica-like mineral mined around the world and used in a variety of commercial and consumer products because it is fire-resistant and has good insulation qualities. Of concern is vermiculite ore produced by the Libby Mine in Montana from the 1920's to 1990. It was sold as Zonolite® Attic Insulation and possibly other brands in Canada during that time. Vermiculite from the Libby Mine may contain amphibole asbestos. The Libby Mine supplied the majority of the world market in vermiculite-based insulation.

Products made from vermiculite ore produced by the Libby Mine were not widely used after the mid-1980's and have not been on the market in Canada since 1990. Not all vermiculite produced before 1990 contains amphibole asbestos fibres. However, to be safe and in the absence of evidence to the contrary, it is reasonable to assume that if your building has older vermiculite-based insulation, it may contain some amphibole asbestos.

Although the overall percentages of amphibole asbestos in bulk vermiculite are very low, the airborne percentages can increase if the material is disturbed. Asbestos poses health risks only when fibres are present in the air that people breathe. If asbestos fibres are enclosed or tightly bound in a product, for example in asbestos siding or asbestos floor tiles, there are no significant health risks. How exposure to asbestos can affect you depends on:

  • the concentration of asbestos fibres in the air;
  • how long the exposure lasted;
  • how often you were exposed;
  • the size of the asbestos fibres inhaled; and
  • the amount of time since the initial exposure.

When inhaled in significant quantities, asbestos fibres can cause asbestosis (a scarring of the lungs which makes breathing difficult), mesothelioma (a rare cancer of the lining of the chest or abdominal cavity) and lung cancer. The link between exposure to asbestos and other types of cancers is less clear.

Based on current information, there is no evidence that vermiculite currently available for horticultural purposes (e.g. potting plants) is a health risk when used as directed.


Minimizing Your Risk

The best way to minimize your risk of amphibole asbestos exposure is to avoid disturbing vermiculite-based insulation in any way. If vermiculite-based insulation is contained and not exposed to the home or interior environment, it poses very little risk.

If you know you have vermiculite-based insulation in your attic, take these precautionary steps.

  • Do not allow children to play in an attic with open areas of vermiculite-based insulation and make sure anyone working in the attic knows about the possible presence of amphibole asbestos.
  • Do not use the attic for storage if retrieving items from it may disturb the insulation.
  • If you must go into the attic, walk on boards in order to minimize disturbance of the insulation and use an appropriate respirator mask. Do not remain in the attic any longer than is necessary.
  • Common dust masks are not effective against asbestos fibres. For information on appropriate respirator masks, see the Need More Info? section.
  • If you have vermiculite-based insulation and you decide to have it removed, speak to trained and qualified asbestos removal professionals to handle the insulation removal. They can be found by looking up experts in "asbestos abatement /removal." NEVER attempt to remove the insulation yourself.
  • If you plan to remodel or renovate--for instance, by re-insulating your attic--in a manner that would disturb the vermiculite, speak to professionals who are trained and qualified to handle asbestos removal before proceeding with the work to be done.
  • Seal all cracks and holes in the ceilings of the rooms below the insulation (for example, apply caulking around light fixtures and the attic hatch) to prevent insulation sifting through.
  • If you suspect you have vermiculite-based insulation in your walls, as a precautionary step, seal all cracks and holes. For example, apply caulking around window and door frames, along baseboards and around electrical outlets.

What To Do If You Suspect You Have Been Exposed To Asbestos

Asbestos related illnesses are usually associated with frequent and prolonged exposure to asbestos. The time it takes to develop a disease from exposure to asbestos is usually long - up to decades. However, some steps you can take if you have concerns about exposure to asbestos are:

  • Talk to your health care provider;
  • Avoid or minimize further exposure to any form of asbestos; and
  • Stop smoking and avoid second hand tobacco smoke and other irritants that could affect your lungs. Exposure to cigarette smoke and asbestos greatly increases your chances of developing lung cancer.